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Introducing Academic Innovation @ Michigan (AIM)

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education & Innovation

Timothy McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy and Education, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and Principal Investigator, Digital Innovation Greenhouse

The University of Michigan has helped to shape higher education since its founding. Motivated by the values of a great public research university, we work every day to unlock personalized, engaged and lifelong learning opportunities in an age fueled by technology, strengthened by connection, and catalyzed by evidence and analytics. Michigan is a supremely impatient engine of scholarship and creativity, bound together by a commitment to discovery and relentlessly focused on practice and application.

What should we do to transform higher education given our unique institutional heritage and strengths amidst changes to the fundamental conditions which we cannot ignore?

We believe the time has come for a more dramatic transformation, harnessing a digital innovation strategy to create a new, life-long approach to a Michigan education for all students. This should start before enrollment, intensify during a four year highly engaged residential experience, then continue throughout alumni careers, supporting skill growth in a changing economy, while enriching the lives of alumni across U-M academic excellence.

To accomplish this transformation, we will begin with a Michigan-led, two year international discussion of the future of residential education in a digitally mediated world. As we set our sights on truly transformative change in higher education, balancing scholarship and practice, we are pleased to announce a new series of events and initiatives called Academic Innovation @ Michigan (AIM). AIM is a scalable model for action-oriented campus discussion organized by the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI).

U-M has seeded and investigated many new academic innovations and is exploring pathways to scale. AIM is an opportunity to showcase these groundbreaking initiatives, ignite further discussion, and trigger new collaborations across campus as we institutionalize what we have learned from this array of experiments. The goal of AIM is to explore, debate, design and realize a transformed residential experience, one viscerally connected to this life-long approach to learning. AIM will be piloted with several objectives in mind:

  • A charge to explore what a 21st century undergraduate education means: How does it reflect and expand on our great traditions of liberal arts breadth, disciplinary depth, and agency in the world?
  • A charge to personalize education: How can we recognize that students come to Michigan with very different backgrounds and goals, and respond in more authentic ways to difference of every kind?
  • A charge to connect: How can we at once deeply engage on campus students with alumni of all ages while engaging prospective Michigan students in our lifelong learning community? We should support engagement through a wide array of digital tools, including on/off campus shared learning in blended learning environments, a University of Michigan Advice Archive (UMA2), electronic coaching, evolving social media, and in person engagement through extensive internships and outreach.
  • A charge to explore dramatically different approaches to a Michigan degree: How can we recognize and promote the learning impacts of extracurricular activities in research, internship, entrepreneurship, and social action? Rather than reporting hours registered and grades awarded on a transcript, such a new Michigan degree might represent student effort and display directly the actual product of their work along with expert evaluation.
  • A charge to explore new ways to connect Michigan’s undergraduate and graduate programs: How can we ensure that more students might meet all of their formal education needs with us?

During its first year, AIM will begin with four initiatives:

  1. Supporting a more technically focused learning analytics seminar to continue building a community of scholars and practitioners motivated by the potential of personalized learning at scale.
  2. Creating a roughly bi-weekly AIM series featuring academic innovations of all kinds emerging at Michigan to showcase campus experimentation and connect innovators and ideas.
  3. Convening occasional signature events with a national profile, aiming to tackle big topics influencing the future of higher education.
  4. Hosting student design jams to explore the use of digital technologies in residential education and to engage students in the design of the residential education experience.

We are pleased to announce this new series of discussions and activities and look forward to participation across the U-M community.

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